To long-time readers, this post may seem familiar. It’s because, well, you may have read it before: it’s the same post from last year’s Iron Bowl week back at the old site, updated for this season. I was going to write a new post about the “spirit of the rivalry” or some such, looked back over this one for inspiration, and decided, “You know what? This already says what I want to say.” So here it is again, with a promise I’ll come up with something new in 2010.
You may remember the Looney Tunes cartoons in which a sheep dog named Sam and a wolf named Ralph wake up, say hello, clock in, spend their day in vicious competition over the fate of a herd of sheep, and then clock back out and walk home together at the end of the day:
This is a good illustration of why I never get too exercised about Alabama fans–even the smart ones–claiming that they don’t care about Auburn, that it’s just another game, that Auburn fans are pathetically obsessed with Alabama to the point of not caring about anything else, that Auburn will always be the second-best football team in the state, even in the event of, say, a six straight years of losses. This is why Auburn fans were more than entitled to wag their fingers in any and all ‘Bama faces during Tubby’s streak, why we get to lord our victories over them in a way we would for no one else, why we should always always always laugh at them for believing A) “little brother’s” successes are some sort of short-lived, doesn’t-really-count fluke when we’ve had the better of things head-to-head for most of the last 27 years B) they don’t care about us when their endless denials are the classic example of doth protesting too much.
These are our jobs. They are Alabama fans. They are supposed to be arrogant, dismissive, hopelessly entitled, and oftentimes outright delusional. We are Auburn fans. We are supposed to be insufferable in victory (and, yeah, defeat), derisive about the Tide’s mouldering claims of superiority, and yes, we are most certainly supposed to be obsessed with Alabama. When we sign up on one side or the other in this state, we clock in. And then we go to work.
I would say fans on both sides of the Iron Bowl should stop holding our jobs against each other and realize this is just how this business works–and there are times, certainly, when they should be held with much less stridency–but then again, holding them against each other is also part of the job.
I say that as preface to this: I have no problem admitting I am obsessed with beating Alabama and want Auburn to win Friday’s game so badly it makes my teeth hurt. Of course I’m obsessed. They’re Alabama.
I’ve never understood–other than the requirements of the job–why Tide fans would mock Auburn fans for that obsession. For a whole laundry list of reasons:
1. Doesn’t the fact that we’d be obsessed with Alabama sort of imply that they’re a program worth obsessing about? Isn’t saying something along the lines of “Haha! You losers are losers for wanting to beat a team like us so bad!” an admittance that your team is also, well, a bunch of losers?Doesn’t responding with “Well, they’re obsessed with us, but that makes sense when you consider how awesome we are” a much more logical response? But logic and Alabama fandom have, of course, never been much for going hand-in-hand.
2. Maybe, just maybe, said obsession and the full-time devotion to it has something to do with the fact that outside of the efforts of one particular museum-inspiring coach, Auburn has been the superior team? We win because we care, yo.
3. I think I’ve written this before on this site, but it doesn’t make sense to put your national cart before your in-state horse. You can’t win a national title if you don’t win the SEC, you don’t win the SEC if you don’t win the West, you (generally) don’t win the West if you don’t win your own damn state. If you’re second-best at home, you (usually) can’t be first-best anywhere else. Why wouldn’t beating Alabama always be Auburn’s No. 1 goal? Again: maybe trying to run to national glory before walking past Auburn is why the Tide has tripped and fallen on its face as often as it has, hmm?
4. This one is important.
Hate and rivalry are not in the blood of college football. Hate and rivalry are the blood of college football. Its first game: in-state rivals in search of a gentlemanly way of tearing the limbs off of the representatives of the other school. Get past the ginormous television contracts and multimillion dollar bowl purses and crystal footballs and Tim Tebow discussing circumcision on ESPN College Gameday built by the Home Depot and this–the competition, the hate, the blood–are still what the game is about. Untether it from those things, and it’s just minor-league NFL, Arenaball played outside.
To deny rivalry is to deny that your team is even playing college football. Of course, many Tide fans will admit to having a rivalry with Tennessee, or that Auburn is a rivalry game–just not an especially important one. (Granted, this doesn’t go for all of them. Many hate Auburn the same way we hate them. But many claim they do not.) Again: this is their job. This is who they are.
This is, nonetheless, another reason they are wrong and hopeless and forever hated Alabama. Whether they like it or not–or rather, in part, because their obnoxious asses don’t like it–this is the greatest rivalry in college football. It is**. And many of them seem to willingly forsake that claim just to try and prove a point about their imagined superiority.
They should be punished for it. Because they are hypocrites, blithely claiming the on-field results during the Streak didn’t matter because “Alabama would always be the better program, no matter what,” and then, of course, chanting 36-0 endlessly at us as soon as they managed to actually win. In response to the same WBGV post by Todd I linked above, Grotus (in his own tour de force post) writes the following:
What’s most interesting is the simultaneous embracing and rejection of Tide history that distinguishes the new Bama fan. On one hand, he’s obviously denying more than a century of vicious, gladiatorial combat in the form of football. As I need not mention, this is a war fought long by our fathers and grandfathers – and in my case, great-great-grandfathers. To claim that the Iron Bowl holds no significance is to completely ignore the bitter feud that has shaped our two institutions. All while simultaneously proclaiming the resurrection of the Tide, return to the glories of the Alabama past, the days of a new Bear – this itself is an appeal to history, to trudishun, to legacy. Mmm, crimson cake to be eaten and to be had!
If they won’t respect the Iron Bowl, they don’t deserve to win it.
They are Alabama. We are Auburn. We are the obsessed, because we see things as they are. We are the disrespected, because we dare to respect the sport and its blood. We hate, because their screaming arrogance deserves hatred. We are Auburn: we–our team, not theirs–are the underdogs, the Davids, the storybook heroes.
This is why we clock in. This is why we take the job. This is why Friday could end 36-0 again and we will be at our post next week all the same, ready for work.
This is why War Eagle. This is why War Damn Eagle, forever.
**Army and Navy aren’t just two sides of the same coin, it’s the same face on both sides, too similar to share a hate outside of the context of their 60 minutes of football. Michigan and Ohio St. hate each other, but they don’t share a geography and college football just isn’t the end-all-be-all of sporting passion in the Midwest the way it is in Alabama***. Texas-Oklahoma perhaps comes closest–certainly (as with UM-OSU) the national stakes are much higher than they are in the Iron Bowl. But the undercurrents of Tide arrogance vs. Tiger grievance aren’t there and again, very few Longhorns have to go into the office and face the victorious Sooners on Monday. And what else is there? USC-Notre Dame? Florida-Georgia? Kansas-Missouri? No. Your mileage my vary, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
***Confidential to my friends in Ann Arbor: Sorry. But true.